16 August 2012

The Ones That Got Away: Skating Device

In March 2010 a fellow called me.  He’d developed an exercise device for Baby Boomers who loved to strap on rollerblades and zoom every which way - but because of bad knees or safety concerns were hanging them up. 

imageThe device was really one of those newfangled three-wheeled baby strollers without the stroller.  The handlebars were more like a bike. I’d say it was a cross between a walker and a stroller.

imageThe problem was that it looked more like a walker, giving the impression that it was medical equipment.  I’m pretty sure he’d designed it himself, perhaps with help from the manufacturer.  It was pure function, no style.

When he called I was preparing for a workshop/presentation and getting ready to travel abroad.  I told him I liked his product and would email him in a week.

My thoughts:

  • Like the previous product in this series, take it out of the medical realm.
  • Position it as a cutting-edge, sleek piece of sporting equipment. 
  • Unless you’re a speed-skater, the average person can skate faster because they’re not worried as much about balance.
  • You can skate longer distances.
  • There is less strain on your knees and legs.
  • With a basket, skate to the store.
  • imageThe product needs a total overhaul.  Hire an industrial designer.  Today’s bicycles and other types of non-motorized mobile devices are designed for the eye, with bright colors and polished construction.  If it looks like a walker, nobody will want it. 
  • Even medical walkers are being redesigned for the eye.

I didn’t get too far:

…This weekend I’ll put together a basic, short, creative brief. My guess is that you won’t like all of it. I think your product needs to be positioned away from the medical realm.  I’ll send you the creative brief – and we can talk afterwards if it interests you.

…I didn't request anything from you. I didn't hire you. I just finished professional videos which are now being edited.

…Of course you didn’t hire me. I was going to pitch you with no cost to you…How about this – do what you’re doing and have fun and good luck. You have a good product. But if it isn’t going as planned in a few months, contact me.

I never heard from him again.  Those professional videos were anything but.  In one, a lady was practically screaming over a windstorm – with not much success since the mic was likewise getting blasted.  I guess the professional video company forgot their mic windshield that day. 

imageAnother video had a fellow pretending to skate poorly, almost falling over, looking very sad and frustrated.  He wasn’t enjoying himself.  This was followed by the same fellow utilizing the device, now smiling and happy, floating safely down the trail.  Quite the comedy sketch.

If you’re presenting sports equipment to people who are relatively fit (and they would be relatively fit if they’re even contemplating putting on rollerblades), don’t insult them by assuming they are clumsy and helpless.  You’re introducing an exciting, exhilarating product.  You can do things on rollerblades that you never could have imagined.

I visited the website the other day.  It’s a placeholder, with this message:

The ************® is no longer available.

There is a 2011 post about the same subject, but thought it  appropriate to update everything for this series.

Entrepreneurs & Baby Boomers III
imageThose measly trike things unnerve me the most. Put someone on one, and they remind me of cartoon velociraptors swerving and scurrying, looking for lunch.

08 August 2012

The Ones That Got Away: Underwear

imageCommon Knowledge: When pitching, create a campaign for the client. If they go for it, then create a campaign for consumers.

I don’t have the patience anymore for the first step, so I skip it.  If you want my opinions and ideas, that’s what you get.

And I don’t blog about clients:

Professional relationships will not be disclosed or publicized in my blog or anywhere else. This protects your  professional relationships - and mine. 

Although if the statute of limitations is up, I might.

Every so often I do blog about the ones that got away.  They’re not mentioned by name – but if you’re a good googler…

A year and a half ago an entrepreneur approached me via email:
Mr. Nyren -

My name is **** and I am President of a start up company named *****.  I have teamed with ***** to develop men's underwear most all boomers will appreciate.

We call them **** overconfident underwear. 
What separates ***** from any other underwear is their ability to keep any post void dribble (pee spot) from showing up on your slacks. Our underwear is made from the finest cotton available and look and feel like any other premium underwear. Please look at our web site to see video and pictures. We have been selling for about 2 months using Google add words, and talking to local urologists and giving them brochures to hand out to patients…

… My question is how to reach our target clients and then build momentum so our stock and sales grow together. I would like to send you a pair…
Comfy, good-looking, premium underwear.  Whatever the cup is treated with, it’s invisible.

So was their website.  Alexa ranked it 5 million plus change.
But that was OK with me, because the website was awful.  The first image/impression: a pair of pants with a big wet spot near the crotch.  Sprinkled around the site were hokey jokes about peeing in your pants.  In the midst of all this silliness, and seemingly out of place, were pictures of a top quality, handsome line of underwear. 
A few one-on-one chats, a conference call or two – and I put together my suggestions in something resembling a creative brief.  Snippets:
  • Take your product out of the medical realm and into the mainstream marketing arena.
  • You have a product that incorporates urine drip protection, a normal occurrence that is often perceived as incontinence. While the medical industry might stigmatize this as a condition (post micturition dribble), your product should be positioned as  premium underwear for men.
  • ***** doesn’t alleviate a medical problem any more than an elastic waist-band alleviates a ‘medical’ problem of underwear falling down, or constructing it with ‘high quality cotton’ alleviates a ‘medical’ problem of being uncomfortable. You are offering men’s underwear the way it should have been designed in the first place – with protection.
  • I would rethink the spotting theme in marketing/advertising materials. We don’t need to see it, we don’t need copy that explains what it is. Often, if you identify a product with a negative image – that’s the one that sticks. Everyone knows what a pee spot looks like on a pair of pants. There is no reason to remind them with videos and flash graphics. The first image you see on your website is something unattractive and ugly. Not good.
  • We can get people to the site by employing more conventional marketing.  Let them discover the protection as a feature they want in underwear. It isn’t a question of prudishness – but you don’t want to go out of your way with Baby Boomers by telling them what they need and why – especially when it involves slightly embarrassing scenarios. Let them figure it out.  The protection is simply one of many premium features.
  • Also to be taken into consideration: Women are prime customers. They buy clothes for men. They are buying underwear for their husbands – and they know that their husbands would not appreciate their wives purchasing a product for them that might be misconstrued as an adult diaper.  This is premium, stylish, underwear – not a medical garment. 
I also mentioned this.  And this.

They didn’t go for it. 

A year later I ran across a press release from a marketing firm announcing a new client – the underwear start-up.  I have no idea what they’ve all been up to since then – but whatever it is doesn’t include the web site.  It’s now ranked by Alexa as 27 million plus change.

Good product with lots of potential if positioned correctly.  I wish them well.

Related: I don't need it, but I'll try it on for charity.

Mark Hager Thanks to two folks penning nice (too nice) things about me in recent blog posts:

Mark Hager, Aging In Place Professionals

Claude Nougat The Blog

30 July 2012

Picking On The Big Boys & Girls, Part III: Next Avenue

About two years ago Twin Cities Public Television announced a project dubbed Next Avenue:

Public Broadcasters to Launch 'Next Avenue(SM)' Multimedia Initiative to Super-Serve and Engage Baby Boomers
$5 million in grants from The Atlantic Philanthropies, the General Mills Foundation and the Medtronic Foundation will support Next Avenue's plans to embrace boomers…

I applauded the idea, but wasn’t thrilled with the way they were promoting it:

27 September 2010
Next Avenue: Baby Boomers & PBS
https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/img/b/R29vZ2xl/AVvXsEiUqYQ4pEoVjahhhr_hJ9D6PxOE_8eabfVJD8Gx7iRGHd2BCDI046uuajhC9UpTO8WG-wJ1QHh6COA4YMUTadpFxwJkA75dAyiPP9OxM3baIlSpu9JFbMR_Y1rpN20wL-TwwPMIzw/?imgmax=800Maybe this silly positioning will initially attract underwriters and PBS affiliates – but branding the project as a middle-aged pre-school when promoting it to the public…

I also warned about relying too much on the ‘multiplatform’ concept – not dismissing it altogether but knowing multiplatform is code for web sites, social media, etc.   PBS should concentrate on what they do: Television.

imageIn May, Next Avenue premiered with a bit of ballyhoo – but it’s only a website:

Next Avenue(SM), New PBS System Website, to Be Inspirational and Informative Hub for Booming 50+ Population

There’s some plucked video on the site, and under the Next Avenue umbrella are a handful of PBS/Create TV offerings that have aired for years.

How’s the website doing?  Alexa tells us this:


Notice the tiny traffic bump in the beginning of July.  I think this was when PBS began airing promos for the site.

Through the grapevine I’ve heard that it’s been difficult raising money and/or finding underwriters for Next Avenue television projects.  Don’t take my word for it, except my word that it’s a rumor.        

Let’s hope the $5 million in grants (promised or wishful thinking?) wasn’t all spent on the website.

More from me, and more from Going Like Sixty.

26 July 2012

Picking On The Big Boys & Girls, Part II: The Presidential Campaigns

As I write this, Mitt Romney’s folks are getting pummeled by pundits for allowing the Obama folks to define Mr. Romney.
Never let the competition define you.  (This is likewise true in more noble pursuits such as advertising.)

Way back in 2008, John McCain’s folks tried to define Barack Obama, pinning the tag “Celebrity” on him to cheapen his image.  That didn’t take, but could have.  Obama’s folks countered with tagging their candidate as a breath of fresh air.  Good for them.

What I find oddly ironic: Today it seems as if the Obama folks have taken their cue from the McCain folks, tagging their candidate as a celebrity:

Maybe it’s just yours truly, but this approach gives me the heebie-jeebies.  I don’t want to go to his birthday party.  If I donate money to his campaign, I want it to help his reelection.  Don’t buy me a cupcake with it.

And, it’s all set up sort of like a lottery (or just like a lottery).  Your chance of winning is a million-or-more to one.  That’s a lot of losers. If I donate to Obama’s reelection and ENTER to WIN, I don’t want to end up thinking of myself as a loser.

Baby Boomers’ votes are very important in this election, especially in swing states.  Their concerns, regardless of political leanings, probably don’t include the distribution of cupcakes.
For an excellent overview of the Baby Boomer vote, read Brent Green’s piece in The Huffington Post:

Obama vs. Romney: Strategies to Capture Critical Boomers in Battleground States
imageMiddle-aged and older adults living in battleground or "swing states" represent 41.90 percent of the population in those states. So the 2012 presidential contest may swing on choices made by undecided Baby Boomers and older voters in just ten states.

24 July 2012

Picking On The Big Boys & Girls, Part I: AARP

From 2008:

AARP's Chicken Coop Coup?
I've picked on AARP's advertising and marketing through the years. I think they can handle it. They're big boys and girls.

For years AARP has been promoting their magazine and other outlets to media planners and advertisers.  The first time I ran across one of these efforts was in 2004-5, and wrote about it in my book:

… The advertising campaign has one ad with ashen-faced Baby Boomers in body bags ("These days, doctors don't pronounce you dead. Marketers do."). Another shows Baby Boomers acting like testosteroned teenagers ("Outta the way, punks: older racers are the hot-rod kings!"). Yet another has one of a middle-aged lady dead in a powder room (probably from overdoing it on the dance floor) with police chalk outlining her body. I don't know what the copy is because I haven't seen it. It's probably something like, "Give me wrinkle cream, or give me death!"
© 2005 by Paramount Market Publishing

A few years later they tried again:


And again:

06 June 2011
Still Consuming
… AARP’s new marketing effort will promote the baby boom generation, as it ages, as a viable consumer target for advertisers.

Now they have a new B2B campaign:

In AARP’s View, Advertisers Need to Focus
The New York Times
A new campaign aimed at advertisers themselves features people in their 50s and early 60s, and argues that brands should be focusing on them, not people ages 18 to 34, commonly referred to by the marketers who covet them as millennials.

There’s not much new (if anything):

“The advertising industry in general puts an overemphasis on youth, and when boomers were young that was a very good advertising strategy, because when boomers were 35 in ’75 or ’85, there were 70 million of them,” Mr. Perello said.

… If there is a tendency to pitch to younger consumers, one reason might be the blush of youth among those creating the ads.

Sounds familiar.  The first chapter of my book (PDF):

Why Companies and Ad Agencies Need Baby Boomers
0976697319.01.… Partly to save their hides, ad agencies turned their creative departments over to twenty-somethings. The sheer size of Baby Boomers made them the market—composed of scores of unwieldy cohorts. By attrition, this would have occurred naturally. It just happened ten or fifteen years sooner than with previous generations coming of age.

Barely out of college, Baby Boomers were in control of marketing and advertising to themselves—and became successful at it. After all, we knew the market.

… Along the way, there was a major marketing disconnect. We’re still the largest and richest demographic—but as far as advertising agen- cies are concerned, we’re off the radar.

How did this happen?

Baby Boomers who worked in the advertising industry have moved on; partly by choice, partly by design. In many cases we’ve been kicked out or kicked upstairs. Natural attrition. It was meant to be. It’s the normal course of events.

We have left a positive and important legacy in the marketing and advertising worlds: racial and ethnic inclusion, lifestyle inclusion, tons more perceived markets.

But we also left advertising agencies the Youth Culture.

… Advertising agencies are image-conscious and want to be hip (again, residue from Baby Boomers). Not only do they not want to market to Baby Boomers—they simply want to do what they do best: market to themselves. They certainly don’t want to be known as an agency that markets to older folks (The Geritol Syndrome).

More from the NYT piece:

Much of the advertising in the June/July issue of the magazine is what might be expected, prescription and over-the-counter drugs, a blood sugar monitoring device, and amplifying earphones for television viewers with hearing loss.

But there also are a few ads from brands that have nothing to do with infirmities, the type with which AARP hopes to gain more traction, like Stouffer’s Farmers’ Harvest meals and the Bose Wave music system.

imageSounds about right to me.  From 2009:

Boomer Backlash II
The Backlash:
If every time someone over fifty sees a commercial targeting them and it’s always for an age-related product or service, pretty soon their eyes will glaze over, they’ll get itchy and grumpy.

The Real Issue: Marketing and advertising folks grasping the fact that Boomers will be buying billions (trillions?) of dollars worth of non-age related products for the next twenty-odd years. If you target this group for toothpaste, computers, clothes, food, nail polish, sporting equipment, toenail clippers - anything at all (almost), and you do it with respect and finesse, they will appreciate and consider your product.

This new campaign portrays baby boomers as…  

Why does the media think Boomers are smiling, vapid idiots?
Actually, there are two distinct demos – something marketers need to know:

  • Baby Boomers who scream and jump in the air on the beach
  • Baby Boomers who scream and jump in the air on their motor scooters.

At least it’s an improvement over dead or crazed. 

Disclaimer:  The target markets for this campaign are media planners and advertisers – so what do I know.  My issue has to due with the portrayal of people 50-70 and a spillover into what might end up as B2C campaigns.

I would have used people in real situations – hire a few top-notch photographers and send them every which way (with someone trailing  with release forms, etc.).  No hokey ad copy. 

And/or something like these:


This weekend while at Costco, I caught a grandmother (she shall remain anonymous) sending pictures of dresses to her granddaughter so the child could pick the one she wanted.  Instant virtual shopping.


Next: Picking On The Big Boys & Girls, Part II: The Presidential Campaigns